Resilient Customer Gets DirecTV To Drop Price Of HD Box From $299 To $0

A DirecTV customer service representative offered Justin a free upgrade to a better HD box as part of DirecTV’s legacy program. Justin, a 2-year customer, was disconnected before he could accept the upgrade. When he called back, he reached a CSR who demanded $299 for the same box.

Luckily, the new CSR didn’t put up much of a fight when Justin insisted on the free upgrade offered by the previous CSR. Justin writes:

So I’ve been a Directv customer for about two years now and recently they have been advertising like crazy (you’d have to be living in a cave the past few months not to see the ads) about their expanded HD package, “now more HD channels then ever!” Yet I noticed despite the fact that I pay for the HD package, we get all of 9 channels in HD. Where are my other supposed 61 channels in HD, I thought. Well anyhow, a friend signed up for DirecTV recently and was bragging to me about how many HD channels he now had. The envy boiled within, to the point where I finally got worked up enough to call customer service and find out what was the deal. The woman that I reached in customer service said that I just needed an upgrade on my equipment. She said I would need a new box as well as a new satelite dish. I said “great, what’s that cost?” She said, “oh we have a legacy program where we will swap it out at no charge, let me just transfer you to that department.”

She transfers me.

I wait.

I wait some more.

I hear clicking.

I realize that I’ve been disconnected.

I call back, get annoyed by the computerized menu you have to jump through to actually speak to someone. Finally I get to the right department, and I’m on the phone with (we’ll call him Jim – because his actual name was Jim) Jim. He begins to tell me that HD Box that you need to get all of the new HD channels costs $299.99. I said no, the customer service lady said that as part of the legacy program that the upgrade or swap out would be free. Jim said, no the box is $299.99 but what I can do for you is give you a hundred dollars off, so the cost to you would be $199.99.

I again, said, “no, the customer service person told me their would be no charge. I have been a customer for over two years, and why should I pay anything extra to get a service that any new customer would get automatically. Am I penalized for my loyalty?”

Jim came back with, “well I can take another discount of $10, so the total to you would be $189.99.”

I said “Jim, we are clearly at an impass here. Just transfer me to a supervisor, so we can pound this thing out, because I don’t feel that I should have to pay anything for this.”

Jim paused.

He now said “well I can take $200 off, so the total to you would be just $99.99.”

I said, “Jim, come on now you have to see the comedy in all of this. I mean this isn’t Tijuana, we shouldn’t be bargaining. You started at $299 then we went to $199 then $189 now $99.99. Maybe I should wait to see what’s behind door number three.”

Finally he said they would take one discount of $250, and another discount of $49.99 making the cost zero.

It just goes to show that the average American probably starts at the $299 level or the $199.99 and says well gosh, if that’s what it is, then I guess. It’s too bad you have to be a persistent bastard like myself to get an occasional fair shake in this world.

Supreme Court rulings aside, corporations are not people. Put down your guide to social etiquette when you pick up the phone to call a corporation. You don’t gain a license to be rude, but you can be firm with your requests. Ask for things you don’t expect necessarily expect to get, and escalate to a supervisor if a CSR dares to utter the N-word (No.)

Persistence pays—in Justin’s case, $299.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Comments

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  1. cccdude says:

    I’m not surprised. I am *sooo* sick of companies offering the moon to get new customers but making their long-time customers call a CSR & beg for a couple bucks off. That’s why I don’t have a qualm switching from one service to another. If they only want to deal with new customers..I can be a new customer – at their competitor! Seeya again in 2 years DirectTV!

  2. rbcat says:

    What doesn’t make clear is that he apparently already has a HR10-250 DirecTV HD receiver, which runs TiVo’s software and can only receive the HD channels that are sent in MPEG2 format. The new HD channels are sent in MPEG4 format, which is only supported by the non-TiVo MPEG4 receivers (HR20-250 and H20 non-DVR receiver).

    It is well documented on DirecTV forums such as dbstalk.com that owners of the HR10-250 box can get the HR20-250 for free if they call and ask. Unfortunately for Justin, he had to go through more pain than most do to get this undocumented offer. For those of you considering it, the best way to swap your HR10-250 HD TiVo for the HR20-250 DirecTV box is to follow the advice given in this post at dbstalk: [www.dbstalk.com]

    If you are a long-time DirecTV customer WITHOUT HD, and you call to try to get the HR20-250 for free or lower than $199, you are out of luck at this point. Apparently DirecTV is no longer “giving away the farm” to get customers to sign up for HD (they know they have a good, or at least better-than-previous, product), so you’re probably going to pay at least $199 per box unless you get lucky.

  3. molife says:

    You can get alot more than that. Upwards of $400-$600 off upgrading to HD by calling their retention department. I did it. You can find the details in the slickdeals forum. Or there is a guy on ebay that will sell you the “script” with phone numbers for like $15.

    I got a free HR21 and free HD service for one year. If you keep calling and get a good rep you can get another couple hundred in services and discounts.

    FYI I have absolutely no connection to the “guy on ebay.” You can get pretty much the same “script” from those forums for free. But the ebay guy is more complete and to the point. Will save a bunch of time trolling the forums.

  4. cccdude says:

    And yet most 3rd party authorized DTV resellers are currently offering the HD DVR for free for new customers only. Dish network is currently offering a free HD DVR for new customers and equivalent service directly on their website. My point is, despite being a loyal DTV subscriber for 4+ years (and even referring customers to them), I’ve got to beg to get any type of discount for upgrading my equipment. Same is true for most broadband ISPs, cel service providers, etc. The emphasis is entirely on getting new customers and not giving lpyal long-term customers any incentive to stay.

  5. clyde55 says:

    I quit Direct TV over something like this four years ago and went back to cable. In order to get HD television, they wanted me to pay $400 dollars for a convertor at that time.

    Brighthouse Cable company was begging for me to join up and was offering me a one year deal along with internet that required no commitment beyond that, HD box included. When I called to cancel Direct, they tried to get me to stay by offering a $200 dollar discount on their HD convertor. I asked her why is it that they always wait until after you are canceling to make an offer, instead of rewarding loyal customers who pay their bills every few years. She had no answer of course, and I told her (the representative) to give me a ring in about twelve months and we’d see what we could do then, or at the least maybe go out on a date if she’d send me a picture of herself. I never heard from her.

    I was with Brighthouse for four years until their continual price increases for both internet and TV got under my skin. I recently canceled them and have landed with Dish this time around. Direct-TV had the better programming, but they still wanted to charge for an HD Box with recording capablities (the regular HD convertor by itself was free). Dish did not so they got me for the next 18 months and so far I’m happy with it.

  6. XTC46 says:

    Yea, I don’t like the “new customer only” stuff. I can understand a new contract, that way they know they will be making their money back, but to have to be a new customer entirely is lame.

  7. yg17 says:

    I just love playing The Price is Right with CSRs…..

  8. sven.kirk says:

    Happens all the time with DTV. You call five time and get six different answers.

    Just Keep calling till you get the one you want. It will happen. Eventually.

  9. GearheadGeek says:

    I took this approach to get a discount on my cablemodem service recently. My cable company has been advertising 12 months of 5 megabit service for about half what I’ve been paying… when I signed up (in June of this year!) their basic service was 3 megabits, now 5 is the basic service. I called and was told that the promotion was only for new customers, asked if it made sense to them that they were giving me incentive to switch to DSL for THEIR 12-month promotional rate. Of course I was talking to a script-reading phone jockey so I didn’t waste too much time on it.

    I sent an email to the office of the CEO pointing out that one of their industry’s biggest challenges is reducing churn, yet they are giving their loyal customers incentive to leave.

    I got a call back in less than half an hour, and I have the new rate, but I’m sure most of their current customers haven’t even noticed that the new rate exists, much less done something about it.

  10. homerjay says:

    In oct I got them to give me the HR20 unit for $180 with 12 months of free HD plus $10/mo off. Thats $240 for a $120 item (with shipping). Not too shabby.

  11. ChrisPC24 says:

    They gave me the HD DVR for only the S&H fee of 19.99 on the first call.

  12. markrubi says:

    I have gotten 2 of the new HR20-700 HD DVR’s for $0. It just takes a few calls and some even get lucky on the 1st attempt.

  13. Sam2k says:

    I just called in. HD DVR for $199 plus shipping and tax offset with 12 months of free HD Access.

  14. evarga says:

    My mother-in-law had to do the CSR run-around to get an HD DVR for free. She said it took about 3 calls of various length, and they eventually had to start a new 2-year agreement (they were six months into their current agreement). One of the things that I hate about the satellite companies is that you pay to “lease” the equipment, where you pay them and have to give it back when you’re done. The other thing I hate is the predatory promotional pricing. The first three months may be $50, but the next fifteen, which you are contractually locked into, can be over $100. With Time Warner my rate is guaranteed for six months and then only raises if there’s a systemwide rate increase. My only complaint with Time Warner is they are very very slow to add new HD/premium programming, which is the strength of DirecTV/Dish.

  15. Michael says:

    It’s entirely possible to get DirecTV to give in. I have been able to get a free DVR upgrade for myself and a free HD upgrade for my father just by calling, threatening to cancel if they don’t give in, etc. With the HD Receiver they wouldn’t give in, so I emailed the company via their Web site…4 hours later, I received a reply saying to call a number in the email reply and the customer service rep gave me the HD Receiver, 6 months free HD access and HBO, etc for several months for my headache.

  16. linedpaper says:

    I should have tried harder when I did mine. I have been a customer less than a year, but got it down to $99. My biggest problem is that you don’t own the box. Why pay $300 to rent a box that is realistically probably worth a retail value of $200 or less. I told the csr that if I owned the box and never had to return it I would pay $199, but they wouldn’t even let me do that. It is a huge rip off, but I have nowhere else to turn as Time Warner sucks. I do plan to upgrade to U-Verse once it is in my area and stable, but until then I’m stuck. I really just need to buy an HD Tuner and new computer and setup mythtv again. It really is the way to go.

  17. LAGirl says:

    i upgraded last June and paid nothing for a new HR-20 box + satellite dish. the monthly package i have includes HD, so i don’t pay extra for it. a technician came out to install everything, also at no charge.

    only problem? a few months ago, the brand new receiver started making a very loud buzzing noise. seemed to be coming from the hard drive. when i called customer service, was told that they had heard of this, and that it could spark! i asked for a replacement receiver. the 2nd receiver couldn’t record more than one show at a time (it’s supposed to record 2 at a time). requested a 3rd receiver. that one had volume problems + made horrible ‘crackling noises’. after the 3rd bad box, i discovered that they had been sending ‘reconditioned’ receivers that the cs rep swore up and down were better than the new ones!

    i demanded a new box. at first they refused. i asked how many bad boxes did i need to go through until they would send a new one? said i was willing to cancel service if they couldn’t send me a new box. was switched over to a ‘retention’ specialist. told him our story. he agreed to ship a new box, but it would need to be installed by a technician. i said fine, as long as it didn’t cost me anything. he promised it would be free. it was, and so far, the new box seems to be working fine.

    it sucks that you have to go through so much crap to get decent service + equipment that works properly.

  18. Atomike says:

    “You don’t gain a license to be rude, but you can be firm with your requests.”

    No – I can be as rude as I want. I’m the customer. If they don’t like how rude I am, they don’t have to take my money. That’s the free market. Granted, they may give me a better deal if I’m nice, but that’s MY call – if I want to treat a CSR like scum, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s not like it’s a human being or something.

  19. yg17 says:

    @Atomike: Wow, you’re an asshole.

  20. cde says:

    @Atomike: Where do you work so I can go and make your life miserable?

  21. ej00807 says:

    The equipment costs money. New customers get it, because they get a contract to go along with it. Tell them you are willing to leave and come back as a new customer. As D* I’d not give it free, I’d ask the customer to renew the contract.

    When an installer comes to your house, he may make an immediate appraisal of your equipment and decide to give you the non-HD tuner. It won’t quit working in 2009.

  22. molife says:

    Leasing the units must be a local or state ordinance that allows for that. Here in CA I have kept all of my satellite equipment that I have purchased. And have never been asked to return any. My garage is filled with receivers that were replaced with dvr’s.

    I do the same thing with my cell provider ATT. As soon as my contract ends I call up and demand one of the new free or discounted phones for all of our cell accounts. You just have to be firm – assertive – and not angry or abusive. The csr has no mandate to give you anything. They will simply stonewall you and you’ll get nothing.

    As far as I’m concerned if you’re signing a new contract you are a new customer and should get everything a new customer gets. Don’t waiver. Stick to your guns. And call back 5 times if you have to. It’s sick that you should have to. But it’s the principle. Your a new customer and should get the same treatment.

  23. gnubian says:

    To add in a little incentive, I’ve had my directv service since 1995. I just got upgrade to HD for $19.95 (shipping charges on the $99 HD receiver) which then got cut in half .. install happens on 12/21

    On top of that, my first year of HD service will be $49.95/mo (what my current legacy package is at) after which I will start getting billed the additional $10/mo for HD.

    What it took ..

    1 call to directv talked to 3 CSR’s and got nowhere, thanked the last one and said I’d keep trying wished her a good day and got off the line.

    I emailed them, went out for a while, and when I returned home, I had a magic phone number + PIN# .. 10 minutes after calling I was set. That was 30 minutes ago.

  24. Sam2k says:

    @ej00807: All DirecTV costumers changing their equipment get a nice new contract as well unless they pay $700 for the equipment.

  25. JustAGuy2 says:

    @molife:

    It’s a change in policy. Since mid-06, DirecTV has been leasing the equipment.

  26. Nighthawke says:

    I wonder if I can finagle a deal out of Dish for a upgrade of my own.

  27. imsupermattt says:

    Definitely check out DBStalk.com

    Their threads explain the best ways to get discounts through Directv. A month before I bought my HDTV I was able to upgrade to the HD-DVR for the cost of shipping alone. I wrote one email and then called the number they sent me. Extremely easy.

  28. SpdRacer says:

    @Atomike: They can also repeatedly hang-up on you and make you call a hundred times before they decide to help.

  29. dethl says:

    And this is why I quit ClientLogic(SiTel) after 3 months….working as a DTV main bank rep felt like I was just screwing over customers rather than help them.

    Moral of the story: Don’t take any crap from main bank reps and ask for their coach or a coach on the floor (do not ask for a plain supervisor, that is just another rep on the floor) or a transfer to Retentions, which they will be more willing to do. If DTV is going to treat you like crap don’t put up with it and threaten to leave. Works like a charm every time.

  30. wmharmon says:

    Okay, I’ve played their game back and forth for years. I’ve got more DirecTV and DishTV recievers and dishes than I care to count. Don’t like the deal or treatment you are getting – CHANGE. Once you have a good dish mount, changing is no big deal. And TWC… They aren’t even in the running. That said, I’m starting to like my VUDU box for movies and say good bye to the biggies. A much better option to pay-per-view or DVD rental or even Netflix, most of the time.

  31. Knoxjs says:

    Hmm

    HD-DVR runs 299.00 plus 19.95 d/h its leased so you don’t pay the listing price of 749.00 (And for everyone to know..their is NO..let me restate that.. *****N0000***** benefit to owning your own equipment all the fees are the same).

    Compared to getting your HD-DVR at no cost at Dish – but paying dearly for your sub par HD services at 20.00 per month for as long as you have the damn thing.

    Now its a given – You’ll get some folks that will give you the world in CSR land. Mostly the green folks because anyone that is worth his weight at DTV knows how to deal with the all important “I Wants”

    Directv is a business – its a luxury.

    You don’t get to go to the BestBuy checkout and argue with the cashier about how much your Blu-Ray player costs to see if he/she will take a 100.00 off because your such a good customer.

    Think about that the next time you call your DTV Customer Service Representative demanding what you have coming because of your loyalty.

    Not to forget Directv is loyal in return – Giving you the service you watch everyday.

  32. WesTexas says:

    Knox, you have to admit there are a few differences in your analogy and what most people are describing.

    Best Buy doesn’t give Blu-Ray players to new customers for free and make their loyalty customers pay more. In fact, they send regular discount offers to their loyalty customers to keep them shopping at BB instead of Circuit City or other alternatives.

    Also, DirecTV isn’t providing satellite service out of loyalty but to make money and they can easily make a lot of money on the recurring charges we pay each month. I haven’t read any complaints about the monthly charges, just the cost of an HD receiver for long time customers that new people aren’t charged.

    Being that DirecTV is a business, they should know it is MUCH cheaper to keep customers than to attract new ones. Giving customers upgraded equipment to keep the monthly fees coming is much cheaper than all the advertising they do to attract new customers. In my humble opinion, they would get a lot more advertising if their current customers were out singing their praises for upgrading their hardware for free instead of spending their time here trying to figure out how to get the same deal as the guy who hasn’t paid DTV a dime in the past.

  33. builtiz says:

    So I called direct tv today to try and upgrade my new tv to hdtv service and was offered the 299 + tax + shipping deal. I mistakenly agreed to it since I waited like 30 mins on hold and was unaware of what people have been saying (on here and other forums). Now I’m feeling like I got screwed and am thinking about what I should do. Any suggestions?? I think I will try to call this customer retention line tomorrow and tell them that I feel their business practices are unfair (paying 299 so I can “lease” their equipment for 9.99 a month) and threaten to cancel and switch to dish or cable unless they refund my 299. Think it will work?? I hope so!!! Any other suggestions?

  34. OldHVEmployee says:

    We called last week to upgrade. Had to haggle with them, but managed to get a free receiver out of them with only a $20 S&H charge. It’s bogus that they don’t treat their existing customers with the same respect as new customers. We threatened them with “we’ll back to cable or Dish” and they bent over backwards to keep up us.

    We also used the argument that we actually “bought” our receivers back in 2001–this is when you “bought the equipment.” Why should we, as customers, be forced to pay again for receivers.

    We still have to get “one” receiver, but that is a price I can live with–not happy about the $100 I’m going to spend. But I’m also not going to haggle with them anymore about it.

    In two weeks, I’ll have HD satellite… And just in time for the racing season…

  35. snm77 says:

    January 18th, 2008 – called DirecTV @ 1-800-824-9081, pressed 2 to say I did not have a pin, entered my home phone but NOT my account number, said “cancel service”, then “change service” when asked to confirm. In less than 2 minutes I got a rep. She first offered me the HD DVR for $199, then $99. I told her I’d been a customer for more than 10 years (true) with over $1200 invested in hardware in that time (also true), and suddenly it was only $19.95, included all install, plus the 10 dollar a month upcharge to my package to get HD. I also committed to be a DirecTV customer for 2 more years, pretty standard. That was good enough for me :)